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Published: 07/06/2016
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The "white van man" can come in many forms, from the painter and decorator to the delivery driver and shopkeeper, and there's one key financial product they'll need to keep their business going – van insurance. Unfortunately, data from Consumer Intelligence shows that typical costs are ramping up, which makes it more important than ever to make sure you're getting the right deal.

The figures show that the average van insurance policy will now set you back £954, with best buy prices having risen by 9.7% in the year to April. Perhaps unsurprisingly, younger drivers will be even worse hit by insurance costs, with those aged under-25 now paying up to £3,025 per year.

What may come as slightly more welcome news is the fact that van insurance premiums are rising at a slower rate than car insurance, which is recording annual growth of around 13%, but van drivers will still typically pay more for their cover than their car-driving counterparts.

However, there could be a way to reduce your premiums, and that's by opting for "carriage of own goods" cover. The report points out that price rises for this type of cover (which would be suitable for workers such as builders, plumbers, carpenters and shopkeepers who commute to work) have averaged 8.8% in the past year, while average increases for social, domestic and personal usage have been 11.2%.

Indeed, those who opt for a carriage of own goods policy can cut their premiums to around £859 a year, almost £100 less than the current average.

Pricing pressures

But just what's causing the increase in van insurance premiums? Well, as Consumer Intelligence's Ian Hughes explains, it's got a lot to do with the recent hike to insurance premium tax (IPT), and van drivers are bearing the brunt.

"The van insurance market is experiencing the same pricing pressure as the car insurance market with the Insurance Premium Tax being a major factor," said Ian. "Drivers who use their vans for work are escaping the worst of the rises but are still paying higher premiums on average than motorists.

"It makes sense for drivers to ensure they source the appropriate insurance for their van, as those who only need carriage of own goods cover can make substantial savings. It also makes sense to shop around as prices will vary month-on-month and between providers."

What next?

Van insurance prices may be rising, but you can still find a good deal.

When you indulge in a spot of home improvement, is your primary motivation to create your dream home, or to secure financial gain if you were to sell it? Well, research from Zopa has found that the majority of householders choose to renovate their home to live in for the long term, and have no interest in the potential boost to their house price.

Long-term aspirations

The research found that 73% of those who are renovating their properties have no interest whatsoever in the financial gain of doing so, with their homes being far more than a financial investment. Indeed, 67% plan to stay in their home for five years or more, showing that most want to renovate to create a dream home that they can live in for the long term.

Essentially, the UK appears to be a nation of improvers rather than movers, with just 27% of those who'd taken out a home improvement loan intending to get their home re-valued after renovations, and just 9% saying they'd need to move in order to be in their ideal home.

Many are ramping up their home improvement spend, too, with Zopa customers having borrowed over £50m to improve their homes so far this year, an increase of 54% compared with the same period a year ago. Much of this cash will be focused on improving the kitchen, with 34% of home improvement loans being spent on this room, and a fifth of respondents (19%) said that they'd need a bigger kitchen for their home to be perfect.

However, it seems that a bit of renovation can do the trick for many, with the overwhelming majority (97%) saying they were pleased with the renovations and 40% saying that they're now in their perfect home. Even among those who still don't think their property is perfect, just 22% said they'd need to move, with the majority focusing on more improvement works including better décor (31%), the aforementioned bigger kitchen (19%) and more bedrooms (19%).

This desire to improve instead of move could go some way to explaining why house sales have slumped recently, with data from HMRC showing that housing transactions in April were down 14% compared with the same month last year. This could suggest that a growing number of people are seeking to improve their homes rather than sell up, and with personal loan rates among the lowest ever recorded, it makes a lot of sense.

Leaving it to the professionals

What also makes a lot of sense is leaving the bulk of the work to the professionals. Indeed, 73% turned to the experts to complete their home improvements, with 45% using that expertise for the entire job. Just 13% undertook all the renovations themselves, and the same percentage sought help from family and friends.

This may be surprising given that 86% said they'd happily take on some form of renovation work, with 77% saying they'd be happy to do painting, 51% keen to take on wallpapering and 32% happy to complete tiling. People were least confident when it came to masonry work (6%), bricklaying (7%) and plastering (10%), and it's these kinds of tasks that a professional should always be considered for. This may add another cost, but it could be worth it in the long run!

Jaidev Janardana, CEO of Zopa, commented on the findings: "It's positive to see that the majority of people are improving their homes to live in for the long term, rather than selling up and moving. While renovating can seem pricey, it's significantly less expensive and disruptive than moving house."

Not only that, but as Jaidev points out, choosing a personal loan allows customers to spread the cost of their renovations over a number of years through affordable monthly repayments – and because it's a fixed term, you'll have certainty over your repayments and will know that you'll be debt-free when you reach the end of the term, too.


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